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The pick-me-ups and simple pleasures guaranteed to brighten your mood

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What is happiness? Life-long love? Winning the lottery? Or wallowing in a bubble bath after a hard day's work?

The truth is happiness can be found in the simplest things - the small, inconsequential day-to-day occurrences that sometimes we don't acknowledge.

Whether it's crying tears of laughter over a pyjamas-wearing koala on YouTube or staying up all night to read a really great book, there are certain unsung delights that are guaranteed to soothe us, cheer us and generally brighten our day.

Over time, these little things string together to form the essence of life and the reason why we revel in it - much more so than big, abstract dreams.

In the spirit of minor happy acts everywhere, come check our favourite small-time highs that money just can't buy:

A long, luxurious bath

Julia Roberts epitomises the ultimate bath-time experience in Pretty Woman by submersing herself in bubbles and singing tunelessly to Prince, an experience that looks as fun as it must have been to act.

Here in the Stylist office, we all have our own formulas on what makes a really great soak. Some go ga-ga over posh smellies such as Jo Malone and Molton Brown. For others, it's all in the bath design; it needs to be big, deep and preferably standalone with clawed feet. Still more prefer indulgent accessories, whether that's candles, a chilled glass of wine, catch-up TV watching or even a cheeky cigarette.

Whatever added extras you go for, there's no denying the cathartic, problem-solving value of a good, long bath. Turn your phone off, grab your (big, fluffy, white) towel and let the wallow work its magic.

Hot chocolate, hot chocolate

The famous frozen hot chocolate in Serendipity 3

Have it piping hot with cream on top or with a pinch of cayenne pepper or salted caramel - whatever recipe you choose, hot chocolate is the king of restorative drinks.

It's just naughty enough to make it slightly indulgent, but also comforting and redolent of happy childhoods.

Lazy lie-ins

Look at how smug this lady looks. That's because she has the delicious prospect of a long, lazy lie-in ahead of her (we imagine).

It doesn't really matter how you spend this precious no-man's time between waking up and Things To Do. You could read over the morning papers, gently snooze in a half-asleep, half-awake state or submerse yourself in the duvet with your other half.

What's important is, this is Me Time in its purest and most enjoyable form.

TV binge watching

From House of Cards to Orange is the New Black and The Good Wife, there's so much fuel for a good TV binge-watch session these days.

The key here is to feel no guilt; shut yourself off from the world, slob around in your pyjamas - eat Doritos in bed if you wish. But be serene in the fact that you will devote the next six, eight or fourteen hours to TV watching and nothing else. Aim for an entire series in one weekend.

Sure, you'll emerge feeling slightly hungover and possibly unwashed. But it's worth it for those few hours of escapist, selfish, anti-social joy.

Letter writing

We really have no idea why writing is a lost art. There's so much to enjoy in it, from picking lovely stationery to the personalised touch of handwriting and articulating what you really mean (as opposed to a dashed off email).

Hone your writing skills by penning a note to someone you really love; make it funny, touching or incidental and enjoy every second of it.

Best of all, this is a shared pleasure - who doesn't love to get an unexpected letter amid the standard pile of bills and flyers?

A hearty walk (with a pub at the end)

There's no better way of blowing out the cobwebs of your mind that a good old walk. We're not talking a stroll to the local supermarket here, but a proper two or three mile foray through woodland, fields and meadow paths.

Whether you're hungover, having an argument or mulling over an issue at work, a walk will give you the mental and physical space to think or talk things over and get some perspective on whatever's worrying you.

Unplanned walks are the best but if you prefer to map it out before you go, we recommend scheduling in a pub midway through or at the end. Reward your cheek-glowing efforts with a pint or two of real ale.

Cute animal videos

It's a cliché this one, but who are we to deny the sheer, life-affirming delight that comes from watching cute animal videos? We could spend hours - and we mean hours - snorting tears of laughter over videos as random as a beagle puppy that insists on playing with a bitter lemon or a baby Shetland pony enjoying a snooze.

And don't even get us started on the likes of Fenton, the talking dog who craves maple bacon or the brilliance of You Shall Not Pass, Dog.

... What did people do before YouTube?

Devouring a book in one sitting

Perhaps it's because we're bookworms, but few pleasures in life seem to match that of chomping through a really great read.

This experience works in one of two ways. You either have that calming, feel-good effect that comes from re-visiting a beloved classic you've read a thousand times over (think Laura Ingalls Wilder or Great Gatsby).

Or you have the unexpected delight of chancing across a really brilliant new book, one that keeps you up to the early hours and screw the lack of sleep.

Home spa nights

You remember those sleepovers you had at school? You can re-create them in essence with an impromptu home-based spa session.

The first step is to visit Boots or what have you to stock up on cheap face masks, nail polish and (wash-out) hair dye. Then call in your girliest mates, get them to bring over their best make-up and clothes, buy chocolate and wine and - voilà! A night of juvenile silliness guaranteed.

Cooking for others

Cooking alone can be very therapeutic, but add in the altruistic joy of baking for others and you take it to a whole new level. Sharing food is at the base of all great experiences and it's lovely to spread the love with home-cooked meals prepared with care.

If you want to branch out on this theme, bake a cake and bring it into the office to surprise your colleagues with - they'll love you forever (well, for as long as it takes to eat said cake).

Window shopping

Audrey Hepburn hit on a killer concept when she window-shopped the tempting displays of Tiffany & Co. in the 1961 classic flick.

You'd think that spending money is where the real pleasure of shopping comes in, but sometimes it can be even more enjoyable to simply fantastise over what you'd never be able to afford, ever ever (short of marrying a millionaire).

Soak in the sight of gorgeous jewellery and designer bags, then comfort yourself with a bargain find at Zara. Sorted.

Discovering a new neighborhood

Discovering a new neighborhood is soup for the soul, be it on your doorstep or on a different continent. It's wonderfully refreshing to just go for a stroll and see what you find. It might be a great Italian deli you've never noticed before, a gorgeous little antiques store or a hidden park with the best coffee cafe ever.

Not only will this type of experience pander to your adventurous side (who knows what will happen along the way...), it's also perfect for widening your world to new, unusual experiences that break the monotony of every day life.

Doing something you've put off for a while

Aah, the sweet relief of finally doing that thing that's been niggling at you for the past few weeks! Writing an overdue essay, phoning a relative, cleaning a grease-encrusted oven - it could be anything.

But the actual act of getting it over and done with and being able to tick it off your to-do list is one of life's more underrated pleasures. Cue: happiness, relief and just a little bit of smugness.

Soaking up the sun

Life looks good in the sunshine, but the problem of living in the UK is no-one really knows when it's going to happen. And most of the time when it does, we're stuck in an office or on a train and have that haunting fear that we're just not making the most of this rare window of opportunity - it may never happen again, after all.

Sweet therefore is the joy when you happen to time it just right. The sun is out and you have an hour or two to lie flat out in your back garden, book in hand, ice-cream at the ready. It's golden.

Road Trip!

We all like the impromptu excitement of a last-minute trip, but not all of us can afford that 5-star weekend break.

A road trip is the broke man's alternative - as Harry and Sally show, all you really need is enough money for petrol and a good meal or two, plus a good driving companion and the world is your oyster.

Really, you could go anywhere - the trick is to enjoy the journey and embrace new experiences (and potentially, new people) along the way.

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